The project is being funded by a five-year, $2.3 million grant from the Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, the U.S. Department of Defense environmental science and technology program that partners with the U.S. Department of Energy and the Environmental Protection Agency. The research team also includes Jayne Belnap, Michael Duniway and Sasha Reed from the U.S. Geological Survey's Biological Resources Division in Moab, Utah and Ferran Garcia-Pichel of Arizona State University in Tempe.
The first step of the program will be to grow biocrusts in laboratories at ASU, said Barger. "Our approach will be to expose laboratory biocrusts over time to a physiological 'boot camp' that includes increasing stressors like heat, light and dryness," she said. "By doing that, we believe the biocrusts we eventually transplant into the study areas will have a higher probability of survival."
The lab-grown biocrust products will be dried, bagged and transported to field test sites at each respective military installation and sprinkled on soil surfaces, said Barger.
Once in the field, the stress-adapted biocrusts developed in the lab nurseries for both hot desert and cool desert environments will be combined with other soil stabilization strategies, she said. The team, for example, will also experiment with adding polyacrylamide -- a soil-stabilizing compound shown to increase soil porosity and reduce erosion, compaction, dustiness and water run-off -- to the mix.
The researchers will evaluate the effectiveness of such soil "inoculations" and determine the optimum dosage for the test sites. Following the assisted recovery of the local biocrusts at Fort Bliss and the Dugway Proving Ground, the team will begin a series of seeding trials to develop strategies for native plant re-establishment, Barger
|Contact: Nichole Barger|
University of Colorado at Boulder